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Advent liturgy: A time of joyful expectation

Geraldine Martin  |  04 November 2015

Advent is the beginning of the Church’s Year. It is a time of promise, expectation and participation as we prepare for the great celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Advent is the time we wait in joyful hope for our God to be born in our hearts. The season of Advent recognizes the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, in a special way. God’s Son became one of us and one with us, to share our human experience fully and completely.  


You will need an Advent Wreath which is a circle of evergreen leaves signifying continuous life. You will also need four candles, three purple, one rose and one white. (If you only have white candles this will do.) The purple candles symbolize the prayer, penance and preparatory sacrifices and good works undertaken at this time. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass. Gaudete Sunday is the Sunday of rejoicing, because the faithful have arrived at the midpoint of Advent, when the preparation is half over and they are close to Christmas. The white candle in the middle signifies Christ, the Light of the World.

The origins of the Advent wreath are uncertain but there is some evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in coming Spring. In Scandinavia during winter, lighted candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to 'turn the wheel of the earth' back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.  

In our Parishes, there would be a progressive lighting of the candles each Sunday of Advent. This symbolizes the expectation and hope surrounding our Lord’s first coming into the world. In our schools or in groups meeting together during Advent you may like to light all the candles at once as we will do in this liturgy.  

Materials needed:

  • An empty cradle or even a shoe box covered as a cradle (placed in front of the wreath on the altar or in the classroom)
  • Strips of white material (cotton preferably, or at least a material that can be written on)
  • A baby doll or a model of the Christ child

If you are a small group, sit in a circle with the wreath in the middle and the cradle in front of it. 

You will also need:

  • Five students to light the candles.
  • Six students to read the 'Meditation on Waiting'.


All: Loving God, it is almost time to celebrate the birthday of our Son. It is getting hotter each week, school will soon be over and the summer holidays are about to start. In all our excitement, help us to remember that it is Jesus who shows us how to love and be happy. Help us to be a more loving community, more generous to our friends and more helpful to our neighbours. Lord Jesus, we are waiting for you. Come and stay with us. We make this prayer, through Christ our Lord. Amen 

Reader: Hand out a strip of material and a pen to each student and invite them to write the names of their loved ones or a situation in their lives that is causing them pain. Some may even want more than one strip. Once students have had time to write something on their strip of material, get one student to place the baby Jesus in the manger (cradle) and then each student will go up and lay their strip over the baby symbolizing the 'bands of cloth' that were wrapped around him by his mother when he was placed in the manger. While this is happening play some appropriate music such as 'Prepare ye the Way'.  

Reader:  We will now light candles on the Advent Wreath. (You may like to give the explanation of the Advent Wreath here). 

Reader: We light our first candle, a single light that the deepest darkness cannot conquer – small – insignificant but a sign of hope.

All: Let it speak to us of the tiny flame of hope buried within us – the stubborn little light that refuses to be extinguished by all that life has thrown at it.  

Reader: We light our second candle, a companion to the first – equally small – equally insignificant – but witnessing to hope that another light brings. 

All: Let it speak to us of the lights of companionship – of our families and our friends – or strangers and kindnesses found in unexpected places that restored our hope in human nature.

Reader: We light our third candle, recalling nights of watching and waiting – sleepless – anxious, when dawn seemed to ebb further from the horizon and hope seemed forlorn. 

All: Let it speak to us of the sureness of morning – of the passing of darkness, of suffering – and the promise of an eternal sunrise dawning for those we have loved and lost and dawning too for us – though we may yet be in that darkest hour before dawn.  

Reader: We light our fourth candle – marking the closing of the Advent season and the immediacy of Christmas – a time of peace and joy we may not ourselves feel able to welcome – as our spirits sometimes dwell in dark and the winter past.

All: Let it speak to us of hope – of being together in this place of healing and wholeness – or our companionship this day – of faith that we and those we have loved and lost, are held eternally in the hand of the One who brought light into being – and who knows each one of us by name. 


Reader: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.  

The Gospel of the Lord

All:  Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ. 


Reader: The Wise Woman

I am a wise woman, looking for a sign. 

I believe that the world is meant to be a fairer place and that I should help to change it.  I have access to people of power and authority but I am not sure how to use my influence. 

Pray for me and for all other influential ones who are waiting on a sign.  

All:  I waited, waited on the Lord

Reader: Poor widow

I am a poor widow, looking for a purpose.

I am tired of being talked about, treated as a statistic, pushed to the edges of people’s conversations. 

I want to meet someone who will have time for me, someone who will listen to me, someone who will not take for granted who I am and what I have to offer.  

Pray for me and for all people who are waiting to be taken seriously.  

All:  I waited, I waited on the Lord. 

Reader: Old Man

I am an old man waiting for my death.

I have looked at the world so long that it wearies me. I have prayed to God so hard for my people to be delivered from all that diminishes and destroys them. And I wonder, as my life closes, if change will ever come.  

Pray for me and for all older people who are waiting for their saviour.  

All: I waited, I waited on the Lord. 

Reader: Mother

I am a young mother, waiting for my child to be born.

I feel the new life inside me, I sense great promise throughout me,

I know my love grows for the one I have not seen.

Yet I fear that the world may be a hostile place for the little one who is to come. 

Pray for me and for all expectant mothers who are waiting for their child to be born. 

All:  I waited, I waited on the Lord. 

Reader: Every Person

I am every girl and every boy, every woman and every man. In my loneliness, I am waiting to be visited; in my uncertainty, I am waiting to be reassured; in my happiness, I am waiting for something more; in my soul, I am waiting to be wanted. Pray for me, and for yourself, for we are all waiting.

All:  I waited, I waited on the Lord.  

Reader: God

I am the Lord your God. I have waited on you, and have heard your prayer. Now is the right time I am coming soon. 

So, prepare a way in the desert, A cradle in the hay, A meeting place in the market place, A table in an upstairs room, a cross on a hill, A grave in your garden, A throne in your heart as in heaven. 

For now again, I will bend down and remember you.

I will answer your prayer, and your waiting will end in joy. 

All: I waited, waited on the Lord.  

Reader: We light the fifth candle - the final candle.  And say, 'Jesus the light of the world.'

All: Jesus the light of the world.  

ALL SING: ‘Away in a Manger’

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;

The stars in the bright sky looked down where He lay

The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.  

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,

But little Lord Jesus no crying, He makes

I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky

And stay by my cradle, Till morning is night. 

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay,

Close by me forever, and love me I pray!

Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care

And fit us for heaven to live with thee there.  


Reader: Compassionate God staying alert and awake requires stamina, energy, focus, commitment and flexibility. Those who have awaited the birth of a child also know the agony and the ecstasy of yearning, longing and pain.

May God bless us and those we love - particularly those we have recalled during this service. Through the days ahead, and until we all meet again, may God hold us in the palm of his hand.  







Topic tags: thecatholictradition, prayer, liturgyandthesacraments, scriptureandjesus

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